Aesthetics and Art Sociology: for a New Theoretical Platform
Theory Department University of Art and Design in Cluj-Napoca Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Contemporary art is commonly defined as a continuous proliferation of heterogeneous practices and discourses that has for already long time banished any possibility of theoretical or - at least - instrumental consensus. Hence, the relevance of the traditional theoretical approaches of the artistic realm - art history and aesthetics - has been constantly questioned during the last decades, while social sciences and particularly sociology took the floor in analysing the unprecedented diversity of the artistic practices. The aesthetical discourse has been accused - and therefore dismissed - of placing its major present-day foci - the aesthetic experience and the judgement of taste - under philosophical jurisdiction (Schaeffer:2000), whereas art criticism as mediator of art history has been referred to as being in critical condition (Searle: 2008). On the other hand, the social sciences' approach to contemporary art, though producing new and consistent knowledge, is by definition reluctant when normative matters are at stake.
Within this context, this paper investigates the legitimacy of the traditional theoretical approaches - mainly aesthetics - versus the profusion and influence of social sciences - principally art sociology - with respect to contemporary art. Consequently, the paper is cross examining the methodological instruments of the two disciplines as well as their fundamentals in connection with the multifaceted contemporary art phenomenon. The hypothesis of this paper is that the continuously reshaping artistic practices, interconnected with the new world order (Stallabrass:2004), claim for a new theoretical fostering that transcends conventional discipline division of tasks. Therefore the major aim of the paper is to argue that the most appropriate approach to contemporary art is a new platform combining normativeness of philosophical aesthetics and empirical and conceptual findings of art sociology.